16 May 2013

Angelina Jolie: An Heroic Southpaw?

Angelina Jolie has been in the news lately since announcing that she has undergone a prophylactic double mastectomy. This does not diminish her left-handedness.
Leftie Angelina Jolie
Ms. Jolie carries the BRCA1 gene, which predisposes people to high risks of breast cancer (men, too). She took the difficult decision to undergo major surgery to reduce that high risk. Fortunately she is wealthy, so this option was open to her. (More about this issue at this Harvard Medical School site.)

She remains an acclaimed actor, film director, and screenwriter. Indeed, her decision may have avoided cancer that might have shortened her career. (Her mother died at 56 of ovarian cancer, and Ms. Jolie is already 38.) She also remains a Great Leftie.

(Brad Pitt is right handed. So are Ms. Jolie's previous husbands Jonny Lee Miller and Billy Bob Thornton.)

Photo from http://www.autographstore.com/celebItems.cfm. Thanks.

15 May 2013

Few U.S. Governors Are Left Handed

The votes are in: Just four of the governors of U.S. states are left handed. (This is the same proportion that is female. Just four out of fifty. Eight percent.)

The four left-handed governors are:
Governor Hassan has the rare distinction of being both left handed and a woman, unique among U.S. state governors.

Three of the four left-handed governors are from the Democratic side of the political spectrum. Just 19 of the 50 governors are from the parties of the left (38%--and one is an independent). If Republicans are disproportionately right handed that might account for the low count of lefthanders among governors over all.

(Alejandro GarcĂ­a Padilla, Governor of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, an unincorporated territory of the United States, is right handed. Vincent C. Gray, Mayor of the District of Columbia, a Democrat, is also right handed.)

Future President?

Is one of these leaders destined to be President of the United States? On past form, left handedness seems to be common in the Oval Office. And many of our presidents have been former governors. Another problem for the Republican Party?

Mark Dayton of Minnesota: A great leftie?

Governor Mark Dayton of Minnesota is a prominent left-hander. Here he is signing into law the state's same-sex marriage act:

Governor Dayton is a member of the Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party, a party of the left.

How many U.S. governors are left handed? Let me know if your governor is a southpaw. I'll try to research this for a future post.

Photo from KSTP news. Thanks.

08 October 2012

Why Are So Many Top Politicians Left Handed?

Top politicians are much more likely to be left handed than the general population.
In the general population about 10% of us are left handed. So what causes left handers to rise to the top in politics?

Here are some suggestions, for which there is little or no evidence:
  • Lefthanders are just smarter, more ambitious, better networkers, harder working, more popular, or something
  • Lefthanders have experience overcoming adversity, dealing with a difficult and sometimes hostile world
  • Or maybe this is just a random happenstance, and over the long term only an average number of top politicians will be left handed.
The success of left-handed politicians may be a new phenomenon, reflecting the greater acceptance of lefthandedness in recent generations. In earlier times many people who might have been naturally left handed were forced to use their right hands due to prejudice. Ronald Reagan may be an example. This is reflected in the record of British Prime Ministers: of the 52 who have held that office there are only two left-handed Prime Ministers on record: Churchill and Callaghan (source: BBC story).

Is this true in other fields? Are there a disproportionate fraction of left handers among business CEOs, flag and general officers, Nobel prize winners or other highly successful groups, where lefthanders might rise to the top? If you have information or opinions, add your comment below.

22 September 2012

Looper: Time Travel Meets Left Handedness

[Spoilers--but nothing you wouldn't learn from the trailer]

When you mix time travel, assassins, and Bruce Willis (a great leftie), you get a tangled tale of murderous switch hitting--You get Looper. I have no evidence that writer/director Rian Johnson is left handed, but he has to manage both time travel and hand preference, two potentially confusing threads, in this new film.

The plot involves both younger (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and older (played by Bruce Willis) versions of hitperson Joseph Simmons. Since Gordon-Levitt is right handed, some acting and perhaps camera tricks were involved.

Willis as leftie older Joe
Gordon-Levitt as "leftie"(?) younger Joe
In the trailer 1 (here) younger Joe sometimes appears to be left handed, sometimes right handed.

Hand preference issues can lead to continuity problems, as in the shot where Joe reaches into his lap for his pistol, which might have been shot by a second unit. The shot had to be reversed to make it appear he is reaching with his left hand. (See IMFDb.) In the rest of the shots from this diner scene in trailer 2 (here), young Joe handles his weapon right handed. (He also seems to switch from an automatic to a revolver in this clip.) We'll have to wait for the finished film to see if they have gotten all this straightened out.

[Update 2 May 2013--I guess writer/director Rian Johnson didn't try to make anything out of Joe's hand preference. In the film Bruce Willis is mostly left handed, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt is mostly right handed. There is no explanation of the apparent change in handedness that happens over the intervening 30 years from Young Joe to Old Joe. And no clever plot elements depend on hand preference. Opportunity wasted? Did Mr. Johnson think we just wouldn't notice? What do you think?]

Older Joe and younger Joe images are from Internet Movie Firearms Database, extracted from trailers for the film.

Bruce Willis's hand preference is revealed in previous posts here and here.

10 September 2012

Left Handers in the U.S. Cabinet

You don't have to be left handed to be a member of the Cabinet of the United States, and in fact it doesn't seem to help you get appointed to a Cabinet-level position.

That well-known lefthander Barak Obama appointed experienced southpaw Lisa P. Jackson to be Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in December 2008.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and
EPA Administrator Jackson sign an agreement
Ms. Jackson also shares with President Obama her African-American heritage.

The other left-handed member of President Obama's cabinet is his Secretary of Education. A good sign?

Secretary of Educaton Arne Duncan

The hand preference of some Cabinet-level officers was hard to determine. Maybe the following could get in touch and let us know:

  • White House Chief of Staff Jacob Lew?
  • Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget Jeffrey Zients?
  • Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers Alan Krueger?
But in any event out of the 23 Cabinet members and Cabinet-level officers only two are clearly left handed. Not more than expected from the general population.

Photo credits: 
Lisa Jackson: Public domain NASA photo from Wikimedia Commons
Arne Duncan: Public domain Department of Education photo

18 August 2012

The Bourne Lefthandedly

The new film "The Bourne Legacy" features a left-handed character named Aaron Cross, played by southpaw Jeremy Renner. It is good to see so many left-handed heroes. (See previous post on the high proportion of left handers among The Avengers.)

Our lone hero Mr. Cross seems to have everyone against him. That includes the designers of some of his tools, as illustrated below. He is taking aim with a sniping rifle with its bolt handle nestled awkwardly under his chin, a common problem for left-handed snipers. I hope he can do it in one shot, since it might take him longer than a right hander to cycle his weapon for a second try.

Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) takes aim,
with his chin over the bolt handle?

Appearing in a smaller role in "The Bourne Legacy" is leftie Scott Glenn, as CIA Director Ezra Kramer.

Scott Glenn in "Silverado"

Joan Allen, who plays CIA Deputy Director Pamela Landy in the Bourne films, is left handed too. What is it about these left-handed CIA executives? Does being left-handed give you an advantage in this fictional CIA bureaucracy?

Joan Allen (from this site)
Directory/Co-writer Tony Gilroy, who also wrote the first three Bourne films, is not, as far as I know, left handed.

The images of Jeremy Renner and Scott Glenn are from the Internet Movie Firearms Database here and here.